The answer that we give to the “wise son” at the seder is ein maftirin ahar ha-pesah afikoman – that we do not eat any dessert after the Passover sacrifice is eaten. This phrase appears in the Mishna on our daf, and with it we close the Mishna’s discussion of the seder night (in fact, the answer being given to the “wise son” most probably means that he should be taught all of the halakhot in the Mishna that deal with the seder, up to and including this Mishna).
Although the intent of this halakha is clear, the language of the Mishna is somewhat obscure. Clearly eating after the korban Pesah is consumed is forbidden; according to the Me’iri, this is so that it will be eaten al ha’sova – as the final ka-zayit (olive-sized portion) of a filling meal. The word maftirin is understood by the Bartenura to mean “to open” or “begin” – as in peter rekhem (see Shemot 13:2) – meaning in our context to begin eating something else after the korban. Rashi and the Rashbam interpret it as “to end” – that the meal should not end with something else, but only with the sacrifice.
The Gemara itself asks what an afikoman is and quotes:
- Rav, who holds that it means you cannot leave your group and go to another after the korban was eaten,
- Shmuel, who says that you cannot have the usual delicacies at the end of a meal (what we would call dessert), and
- Rabbi Yohanan who says that it includes dates or nuts that are eaten with the meal.
Suggestions abound for a definition of the term afikoman. The Mekhtam suggests that it is an abbreviation of two words:
- according to Rav, afiku mani (“remove the utensils”)
- according to Shmuel, afiku mini (“bring out dessert”)
The Yerushalmi brings an opinion that it means music that is played at the end of a festive meal, leading to the conclusion of some rishonim that even speaking should be limited after the eating of the Pesah.